I will give voice to what many Tachiai readers are thinking. Will Hakuho make it to week 2, and will we get to see some of the high stakes / high drama matches that might be pivotal in this tournament? Some ideas that come to mind:
- Hakuho vs Takakeisho – These two have some unpleasant history on the dohyo. While the Grand Tadpole is fighting well right now, I can see a future where winning this match could be key to Takakeisho clearing kadoban.
- Hakuho vs Shodai – The last time these two met, Shodai was a Sekiwake. He gave The Boss a hearty yorikiri, and was one of only 2 people to put Hakuho on the clay that July in Tokyo. I am sure there will be some measure of “Well, hello daikon Ozkei” this March.
- Hakuho vs Terunofuji – The Kaiji is aiming for 10 to put a flag in his return to Ozeki. I can see a week 2 match with Hakuho that puts the drive, desire and focus to the test. Terunofuji has not faced Hakuho since his return to the top division, and their last head to head was in 2017.
I am keeping fingers and toes crossed that we see Hakuho healthy and fighting well right to day 15. List your own hotly anticipated matches in the comments below.
What We Are Watching Day 3
Ishiura vs Hidenoumi – Welcome Ishiura! Good to see you visiting the top division. He is at Juryo 2, so a solid kachi-koshi this March can see him return to Makuuchi. He has a 4-4 career record against Hidenoumi, with Ishiura winning 3 of the last 4.
Yutakayama vs Daiamami – Yutakayama struggles against Daiamami (4-6 career). In spite of daily practice sessions with Shodai, Yutakayama looks less genki than he did even in January, which is a huge step back from where he should be in the mid to upper Maegashira when he is healthy and moving well.
Kaisei vs Tsurugisho – I continued to be baffled that Tsurugisho does not even wear any kind of brace on what is left of that knee. I do hope they keep the giant wheelchair on hot standby each day, as that poor giant is going to need it before senshuraku. This is a first time match between the two, and it will come down to Tsurugisho having enough mojo to heave around 200 kg or so of Kaisei.
Terutsuyoshi vs Kotoeko – I am a bit surprised that Terutsuyoshi has yet to win his first match. He is not fighting any less well than normal that I can see, but he has started Haru 0-2. Today’s bout against Kotoeko, he has a slight career edge at 11-7, but Kotoeko really seems dialed into his sumo right now, and we may see the Isegahama man start 0-3.
Chiyoshoma vs Aoiyama – Big Dan Aoiyama has shed his blue mawashi – I know that conjures up horrors, but he did replace it with a deep forest green that seems to have given him some strong tiber for March. It has been some time since I have seen him fighting this well, and while it’s the opening days of a long tournament, I am hopeful he can really show us some powerful sumo this March. He and Chiyoshoma share a 3-3 career record.
Chiyotairyu vs Akiseyama – Also in the “surprisingly genki” category is flab-monger, Akiseyama. Forget about his appearance, Akiseyama is really fighting well, and showing surprising agility. For day 3 he’s up against Chiyotairyu’s cannonball tachiai. I think this will be a good match.
Kotoshoho vs Ryuden – Both of these guys are having a cold start with 0-2, and it is their first ever match up. I know Ryuden may be having muscle-skeletal problems he is fighting his way through, but I have no news on what is plaguing Kotoshoho. Whomever picks up the white star today will be grateful, of that I am certain.
Chiyonokuni vs Midorifuji – Now we get to the exciting bit. High maneuverability battle platform Chiyonokuni is going to bring his own brand of smack and move sumo up against the master of the under shoulder swing down. I want to see Midorifuji get that hand palm up and moving under the arm, and what Chiyonokuni will do in response. The last time they met was in Juryo last year, so its high time for a rematch!
Hoshoryu vs Tobizaru – Tobizaru has been a complete mess for the first 2 days. I know he is better than this, but since his 11-4 top division debut, he has sputtered and struggled. Day 3 he draws Hoshoryu, who may have gotten so fired up after his day 1 henka loss, that he is going to be motivated for the rest of the basho. Tobizaru leads the series 4-2, but I don’t quite think he has a clear edge today.
Tochinoshin vs Kotonowaka – How much more can Tochinoshin coax out of that damage right knee? Each day I see him mount the dohyo, I worry we are about to see some hideous, gristly injury. They have only met once before, in March of last year, where Tochinoshin lost.
Kagayaki vs Ichinojo – Goth mode Kagayaki will need to summon all of the power of Robert Smith and Andrew Eldritch to overcome his 2-7 career deficit against “the Boulder”. More troubling yet, Ichinojo is showing good forward movement, and some real sumo fire this March.
Endo vs Tamawashi – Fans are wondering that is broken or not quite right with Endo. They guy is a solid top Makuuchi rikishi, but here he is opening 0-2 at Maegashira 5. It does not help that Endo is not super dominant over Tamawashi (11-13), and will likely continue to struggle.
Okinoumi vs Myogiryu – 27 career matches between these two veterans. With Myogiryu taking 3 of the last 5. So this is a very even match by all accounts. I am looking forward to see who gets to dictate the style and form. If its chest to chest, Okinoumi will have a distinct advantage.
Meisei vs Kiribayama – Both are rusty, both need a big barnstormer of a fight to snap them into honbasho condition. Can we please see this one today? I would love to see Kiribayama get into good fighting form.
Takayasu vs Shimanoumi – First time match up, but I expect this one to be quite even. Shimanoumi fighting style is surprisingly similar to where Takayasu ended up post-Ozeki. They are well matched in size and mass, so its going to be down to who has the focus and concentration to see their sumo win.
Mitakeumi vs Takanosho – I am not wondering if Mitakeumi can open 5-0, and a win today would be the next step on that road. Fans tend to forget this guy was the original tadpole (OT), and has 2 yusho to his name. Now we all love Onigiri-kun (Takanosho), but I fear Mitakeumi is hungry….
Terunofuji vs Daieisho – Hatsu yusho winner vs the once and (hopefully) future Ozeki. This match has the potential to be the highlight of day 3. Terunofuji lost to Daieisho on day 6 of Hatsu, as Daieisho was on the march toward the yusho. Now Daieisho comes in with a 0-2 start, and Terunofuji is looking for 8 more white stars.
Hokutofuji vs Asanoyama – Both enter day three with 1-1 scores, and for Asanoyama, its time to buckle down and setting into your sumo. He holds an 8-2 career advantage over Hokutofuji. But we can count on Hokutofuji to be at maximum forward attack power from the first step.
Shodai vs Takarafuji – Shodai usually cleans the dohyo with Takarafuji (12-3). So I am looking for Takarafuji to break out the defensive sumo, Shodai to do the same, and some insanity follows on.
Takakeisho vs Wakatakakage – Their only prior match was this past November in Tokyo, where Takakeisho was on his yusho run. He blasted the lighter Wakatakakage off the dohyo with a masterful display of wave-action sumo. Coming in with an 0-2, and a thick layer or COVID-kyujo applied ring rust, I think this may be a one sided match.
Hakuho vs Onosho – On the surface, this might see like a Hakuho freebie. But Onosho has beaten “The Boss” in one of their 4 prior matches. It happened when Hakuho allowed himself to be bracketed by Onosho’s thrusting attack, and found no pathway to escape. But who am I kidding? Hakuho likely will take this one.